Let’s start off today with a little history of 2665 S Texas 6, Houston, TX 77082. If you’re too young to remember, Service Merchandise was one of the final catalog showroom chains in the U.S., and one of the last to operate in Houston. Their entry into Houston came via acquiring another company named, Wilson’s. Most locations were built next to Office Depot stores, although I’m not sure which chain to trace this to. Service Merchandise was known for selling relatively high quality merchandise at decent prices. While they weren’t a discounter by any stretch, they had pretty nice stuff, including electronics. The idea of a catalog store is that you look through the items the store is selling either in a catalog, or in this case a showroom, and then “order” those items via number. The novelty of catalog stores wore thin, which caused Service Merchandise to transition to a semi-self serve model, which ultimately wouldn’t be enough to save them. After going bankrupt, this location sat vacant for a bit until being picked up by Conn’s, which has since moved across Westheimer to a former Academy.
If you’re unaware, American Freight is the name former Sears Outlet stores are now using. For the most part, the stores still same most of the same “junk” that Sears Outlet has been shifting between locations for the past 5 or so years. Sears Outlet was actually spun off from the “real” Sears all the way back in 2012 along with the Hometown Stores. My understanding is that initially a partnership and alliance existed between the spun off company and Sears supplying the outlet chain with merchandise, and allowing them to continue using Sears Rewards system among other things. However, it seems like this partnership was dissolved around 2018, with the dwindling number of Sears stores. In fact my first encounter with American Freight was looking for one of those long Kenmore dryer screens that has been in use for 60+ years, only to find from the cashier that even though the “Sears” name was on the store, this was no longer a Sears, and they were not getting and restock shipments from Sears. During 2019 and 2020 the name changes were completed from Sears Outlet to American Freight, and while the stores carry a similar range of merchandise as Sears Outlet, it seems to all be new overstock, and possibly some floor models.